Striving to be unique, the search for voice: identity construction and performance among creative writers and the navigation of a hegemonic system

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University of Alabama Libraries

This thesis examines the Academic Creative Writing Economy (ACWE) as a hegemonic system and how its members navigate the governing rules of this system. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 25 ACWE members and were later transcribed following Strauss and Corbin's (1990) grounded theory methodology. To analyze the 188 single-spaced pages of transcripts, a cultural-critical rhetorical lens is employed, viewing the data through Butler's (1999) identity theory and Foucault's (1965, 1972, 1977) theory of dominant discourses. The analysis produced four emergent themes: the hegemonic nature of the ACWE, the rules of the hegemonic system, voice as central to writers and what is at stake in the face of governing rules, and online publishing outlets as resistive shelters and forces against the ACWE. The rules of the system are enforced via system sanctioned stages (i. e. workshops and publications) and therefore inform system members' voices with or without the system members' knowledge. Despite this hegemonic, cyclical effect, the system aids writers as it provides an economic shelter. This shelter coupled with the resistive structures within the walls of the ACWE, prevent a total conversion to stagnant writing. In addition to outlining these governing rules, this thesis also examines the performance and construction of voice among system members; and how these performances and constructions are changing in the face of both a technological boom and a rise in the number of programs within the ACWE. I argue for further study of creative writers by Communication scholars focused on identity theory, as creative writers have always had mediated identity performances via their work and now the general population is adopting these mediated performances through social media.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Communication, Web studies, Higher education